Sunday, March 31, 2013


During my adolescence I became familiar with Dutch-style gin. There was always a bottle of Bokma Oude Genever in the refrigerator, and once in a while I helped it diminish slightly. After I acquired a liking for it I would order it at local bars. Genever, in the Netherlands, is mother's milk to the multitude, the original Dutch courage.
It does not resemble English gin, which makes an excellent after-shave, if diluted with tap water. English gin nowadays is neutral ethyl alcohol (from a columnar or patent still) re-distilled with juniper berries, then diluted to bottle strength (40%).

Both oude genever ('old gin') and jonge genever ('young gin') are made at minimally thirty five percent alcohol or marginally higher, per legal standard. What has been produced since World War II is not at all the same as the pre-war product, being the result of modern manufacturing methods and shortcuts. Which is probably not such a bad thing - there never was enough good stuff to go around.


The modern version of old-style gin ("oude genever") is manufactured nowadays by triple distilling moutwijn (maltwine), and blending the result with pure alcohol and essences for a final distillation to finish, then diluting down to around 38%. The resultant product will have a noticeable taste of juniper and other flavourings. The sugar content amounts to a maximum of 20 grammes per litre.
What distinguishes this product from similar firewaters is the required 15% minimum moutwijn content, as well as the dominant method of distillation, that being by alembic (pot still). It is usually a pale yellow colour, and of a stronger taste qua herbals than English gin.
Look for the term 'graanjenever' or 'graan genever' on the label, as this indicates that it consists entirely of grain alcohol, rather than being partially sugar beet or potato exudate.

[The spelling 'jenever' is modern and reflects how it is pronounced: yuh nay vur. Genever is the older more traditional orthography, pronounced the same. Both spellings are common.]

Some American bartenders, blessed with limited knowledge and hugely over-active imaginations, will assert that all oude genever is aged in oak barrels for several years, giving this as the explanation for the term 'oude' to their customers . That is in fact nonsense. A few distillers do use barrels for a few months (!) cask-mellowing, but the vast majority eschew such costly methods entirely.

There are only two companies that I am currently aware of that actually mature their product for a number of years in oak; Zuidam and Rutte.
Both are family enterprises, the first started in 1975, the latter over one hundred years before that in 1872.

Zuidam Distillers is located in Baarle Nassau, Rutte & Zn, in Dordrecht, which is not too far from Rotterdam. Both have diversified product lines.

Rutte & Son make a number of exceptional liqueurs in addition to their aged gins. Their oude genever is well known for being higher in moutwijn than almost any other brand. Unfortunately I have not seen them in the United States, but their five and twelve year olds are masterpieces.
Should you visit the Netherlands, look for Rutte & Zn Paradijswynjenever, a blending of various spirits that were aged between ten and thirty years in French wine barrels. This is the ultimate nectar of the gods.

Zuidam Distillers
Smederijstraat 5
5111 PT Baarle Nassau
The Netherlands
Telephone: 31-13-507-8470
Facsimile: 31-13-507-9298

Distilleerderij Rutte & Zn
Vriesestraat 130
3311 NS Dordrecht
The Netherlands
Telephone: 078-613-4467
Facsimile: 078-614-3090


What we know as young-style gin ("jonge genever") is merely up to a maximum 15% moutwijn content, though many brands have far less than that or even none at all. The main building block is industrial ethyl alcohol, with only a light addition of juniper extractives if any. It is in many ways more like vodka than gin. Maximum sugar content is 10 grammes per litre.

The term 'jonge' (young) refers to the method used for producing the major part of the product, that being a patent still (called in Dutch "het nieuwe kolommenapparaat" - the new column apparatus), which is a younger method historically than the pot still. Jonge genever is clear, and nearly flavourless. It is almost entirely made from distillates purchased from factories in Germany and Russia. Only the water used to dilute it down to the standard commercial strength is Dutch.
There are a few high quality brands of jonge that are still made the old-fashioned way, but the vast majority is rather undistinguished, strictly mediocre, and meant for the common herd.


Pure Dutch gin is only made from three grains in combination: barley (gerst), rye (rogge), and maize (maïs). The barley is malted, after which it is mashed with the other two. One important factor is the duration and temperature of the subsequent fermentation of the wash, as this will influence the resulting product - slower and lower is better. The strain of yeast used also has a great influence.
The first distillation will render around twenty percent alcohol ('ruwnat' - raw liquid). The second or second and third distillation brings this up to 30% ('enkelnat' - single liquid), the next produces moutwijn ('maltwine') at around forty six percent.

Everything up to this stage need not necessarily be done by the distillers themselves but can be arranged at a 'branderij' which supplies moutwijn per contract, though some manufacturers take pride in having complete control of the process, and do everything in-house.

The master distiller will re-distill the moutwijn, to raise the percentage up to 75% ('gestookte moutwijn' - stoked maltwijn), which with the addition of juniper berry before the final distillation yields a gin-like product, the final taste still requiring adjustment by blending with other extractives, such as coriander, St. Johns Wort, caraway, et autres.

It is the proportion of the 'middle run' that is kept which will determine the quality of the end product; standardly in distilling the first three percent (fore shot) that comes out of the condenser is discarded, as well as most of the next fifteen percent or so (head shot), and also the final twenty plus percent (tail run). There are variations per factory, and different genevers represent different formulae.

[Experienced moonshiners and other enterprising scoff-laws are invited to forward corrections to the explanation above. My personal experience with pot stills was minimal, and somewhat eruptive. It didn't go well.]

Note that copper pots are far better than stainless steel for most of the process, as copper functions catalytically in the production of esters, and helps separate out oily scum, thus improving the clarity of product.


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[Easter morning, March 31, 2013, right after the first cup of coffee.]

He was always terrified of this day. Probably performance anxiety, nothing more. But still, he worried. Some of those upright creatures were entirely uncontrollable, and you never knew what the big clumsy galoots might do.

Such a horrible gig. If he had known it would be this bad, he would not in a million years have agreed to it. But it had seemed like such a deal at the time!
A few publicity shots, an appearance or two at a charity event, one major show every year, just one day of work, and eternal life!
What rabbit could say 'no' to that?
Oh, and colouring things that came out of chicken bottoms. He always farmed that out to the weasels and stoats, as they were adept at such tasks, and full of energy. Plus they also liked blood, the evil little carnivores.
Once he found that source of cheap labour, he ignored the eggs.
It was the blood that was slightly disconcerting.
Rabbits are vegetarians, usually.
But vampires aren't.

He supposed he was the only immortal rabbit on the planet. He had been tempted in the early years -- centuries -- to bring someone else over, but whenever he thought he'd found a likely candidate, they always turned out to be harebrained. And even the most anti-social of rabbits always has enormous numbers of relatives, so it would be impossible to do just one; the entire family would be in on it, and demand the same.
Imagine several thousand vampire bunnies!
No, that would be quite impossible.
Constant twitching.
Red eyes.

That really would be his worst nightmare. And they'd probably never shut up, but talk incessantly about carrots!

He had no desire whatsoever to spend all the centuries listening to immortal rabbits whining about no longer eating the fresh green grass, the crunchy orange things, crisp CRISP lettuce leaves........
So instead, once in a blue moon, he'd bring over a ferret or two. They were loads of fun, being small and wrigglesome, and they would eventually forget about sunlight. He enjoyed watching from a dark burrow as they dashed out into the brightness and exploded. Larger animals, like sheep, smoldered and ran around panicking while the sunlight gradually killed them, but ferrets (and field mice) were small enough that their entire bodies caught fire immediately and they disappeared in a beautiful puff of smoke.

Once or twice he'd brought over a human.
Not very often, because children were emotionally off kilter, and it was unpredictable what they would do with 'the gift'. There had been that freaky French girl who went bonkers, starting riots all over Lorraine and Orleans, nearly undermining the legitimate government at the time. That had created all kinds of problems! She'd even been called a witch, and accused of a deal with the devil. Finally she too self-immolated, and the French had invented one hell of a story just to account for that!
Then they spent the next several hundred years pissing at the English.
What was her name again? Jeannie? Joan? Joan something.
He could not remember, it had been so long ago.
Fourteen hundreds - nearly six centuries!
Thousands of rabbit life times.

Occasionally the Greek fellow checked up on him, to see how he was doing. Nearly two thousand years ago he had met the undead magician, who had told him a fantastic tale about escaping from a sealed cave.
It was supposed to be his greatest illusion, but the ignorant bumpkins had gone wild. Whenever he appeared after that, instead of letting him do his act -- water into wine, segue into loaves, fishes, and leprosy, and gradually build up to a grand finale -- they'd demand something bigger and better, right now! The eggs had originally been an ironic comment, but even that spiralled out of control.
The Greek had suggested that if he got tired, he could always appoint a substitute. Turn some other creature into a blood-sucking immortal with candy.
He'd thought about it. A large vampire grizzly bear, storming through the night throwing eggs and scaring the bejayzus out of everyone.
As well as draining several kiddies dry.
With strap-on rabbit ears.
For verisimilitude.

Even bears look cute with floppy strap-on ears.

For some reason he was also thinking fishnets and a giant cotton ball, but there probably wasn't a bear alive that would do that, though. They didn't really have a sense of humour.

Oh well. It was dark. Time to start distributing painted eggs and chocolate.
For the first several million tykes he went down chimneys and dropped a basket near the fireplace. By the end of the night he was tired, and simply wanted to get it all over with. He'd chuck loot at random, and those kids would have to search in the shrubbery around the house. Sometimes even in the garbage dump or on the freeway. Let them struggle for the lousy sweets!
The very last child on the list probably wouldn't get any at all.
Or maybe just stale Hersheys with the ears bitten off.
Sorry, kid. It's late, and I might burn up.
Gotta get back before daylight.
Crap I need a cocktail.

Eggs smell bad.
Worse than blood.
He was sick of them.


Happy Easter.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013


The avid reader always associates the Spring Season with strife between the civilized world and the savages, as well as political rot. The less-than-avid reader may wonder at times why this is so.
The connection is orioles.

The oriole symbolizes spring and joy, song and sunlight, as expressed in the idiomatic expression 鶯歌燕舞 (Cantonese: ang goh, yin mou), referring to the warbling of some birds and the lively energy of others - orioles and swallows respectively, indicating that all is well with the world, the weather has improved, and prosperity is on the increase. What is significant is that both types of bird mentioned move north when the weather warms up, and thus harbinge the return of more pleasant days.

[Idiomatic expression: 成語 (seng yu). A large number of them can be found here, with explanations in English and Chinese. Many such expressions are common to both Mandarin and Cantonese, being drawn from literature, classical sources, songs and poetry, and as well as pithy turns of phrase.]


Orioles sing, swallows dance. Nicely put, and a blameless sentiment, except that one remembers a poem written during the Tang Dynasty showing a darker view of orioles; one that paints them as noisy pests that caused unhappiness in a woman yearning for the man she loved.



Spring Sorrow

Oh chase away those orioles,
Stop them singing in the tree!
Their cries destroyed my dream,
And I never reached Liao Hsi!

This broken verse quatrain by 金昌緒 (Jin Chang Xu; Cantonese: Kam Cheung-suei) evokes a husband stationed at the border between the Tang realm and the territory of the Khitans during one of the periodic wars in the north. His wife in the distant heartland imagines herself traveling towards his camp while dreaming, but the birds startle her awake ere she reaches her destination.


Daa-hei wong ang yi,
Mou gaau ji seung tai.
Tai si geng jip mong,
Pat tak dou Liu-Sai.

[Mandarin: Chun Yuan - 'Da qi huang ying er, mo jiao zhi shang ti. Ti shi jing qie meng, bu de dao liao xi'.]


Khitans? Who or what were the Khitans?

History shows that they were distant descendants of the Tunghu (東胡 tung wu; Eastern Hu), who were a plague upon the border for over a millenium before being destroyed by the Hsiungnu (匈奴 hung nou; clamorous slaves) in the second century BCE. The Tunghu were almost certainly speakers of a Mongolic language, about the linguistic affinity of the Hsiungnu comparatively little is known. Both groups were native to regions in Mongolia, Manchuria, North-Eastern China, and furthest Russia.

After their defeat, remnants of the Tunghu survived as the Wuhuan (烏桓) in Northern China, and the Hsianpei (鮮卑) in Manchuria and Mongolia.

[烏桓 Wuhuan: pronounced wu-wun in Cantonese. The first word is 'crow', with a secondary meaning of 'dark' or 'black', the last a type of tree. Ethnonym.
鮮卑 Hsianpei: pronounced sin-pai in Cantonese, meaning approximately 'freshly despicable'. Significant branches of the Hsianpei included the Murong (慕容 mou-yung; admirable appearance), Yuwen (宇文 yiu-man; structure texts), Tuoba (拓跋 tok-bat; support epilogue or colophon), Duanshi (段氏 tuen-si; section clan), Chifu (乞伏 hat-fuk; beg & conceal), the Tufa (秃發 tuk-fa; baldness issue), et multo plura. ]

For the next several centuries, Chinese rulers often supported the Hsiungnu and the Hsianpei against each other as a means of keeping peace on the border by promoting butchery in the wastelands. This was an effective and pragmatic approach, which the rapacity of the threatening tribes more than justified.

By the third century CE the Hsianpei confederacy dissipated, and various sections established their own polities. The Murong, as one of the more important groups, founded the Former Yan (前燕 chin yin, 337-370 CE), Western Yan (西燕 sai yin, 384-394 CE), Later Yan (後燕 hau yin, 384-409 CE). The Tuoba ruled a part of north-east China as the Northern Wei Dynasty (北魏朝 paak ngai chiu; the northern awesomely-overtowering dynasty) from 386 to 534 CE.

The Khitan (契丹 kaai daan; contract or bond, cinnabar) were slower to establish themselves as pests, however. Their rapacious tendencies, while long evident, did not become manifested as an independent kingdom till the twilight years of the Tang dynasty. In 907 CE they founded the Liao state (遼 liu; distant or far) in what is now Liaoning (遼寧 liu ning; "pacified Liao"), which was defeated by the Jurchen in 1125, when that latter group of proto-Manchus styled themselves the Jin Dynasty (金朝 kam chiu: 1115–1234 CE). The survivors fled into Central Asia and founded the Western Liao Khanate (西遼朝 sai liu chiu: 1124-1218 CE).
Both the Khitan (Liao) and the Jurchen (Jin) were overrun by the Mongols.
The first in 1218, the latter in 1234.

The Mongols were not only the scourge of nations, but the most savagely brutal and reprehensible of all the barbarians to rupture from the deserts.
After the destruction they wrought, much was permanently altered.

The Khitans disappeared, the Jurchens eventually became the Manchus, and subjugated both China and the tribes on the frontiers (including the Mongols), founding the Ching Empire (大清帝國 daai ching dai kwok; great clearness imperial state) and taking Beijing (北京 paak keng; northern capital) in 1644.


[The following paragraphs are parentheses-rich, for which I apologize.]

The principal river in North-East China is the Liao He (遼河 liu ho; distant river), originating in Inner Mongolia, separating the modern-day Chinese provinces Liaoning (遼寧 liu neng; the pacified or settled marches) and Liaotung (遼東 liu tung; the eastern marches), before terminating in the Gulf of Chihli (直隸海灣 jik lai hoi waan; erect servant bay, now called Bohai - 渤海 but hoi; swelling sea).

The provincial capital of Liaoning, Shenyang city (瀋陽 sam yeung; liquid masculine), formerly called Shengjing (盛京 sing-keng; abundant metropole) and also known as Mukden, was where the Manchus built their first imperial palace, nineteen years before they broke through into Sina trans mura and entered Peking in 1644. Even after consolidating their hold on the civilized world, Shengjing remained their ancestral urbis clarissimae.
During the centuries before the Hsianpei and Jurchen became significant the place was called Houcheng (候城 hau sing; expect city), later becoming Fengtian Fu (奉天府 fung tin fu; esteem heaven prefectoral city). Around 300 BCE during the rule of the Yan Dynasty (燕國 yin kwok; swallow country, extant from circa 1045 BCE till conquered by Qin Shihuang* in 222 BCE) the name was changed to Shen Zhou (瀋州 sam jau; pouring state), which the Mongols changed to Shenyang Lu (瀋陽路 sam yeung lou; the Shenyang administrative circuit).
It was subsequently renamed Shenyang Zhongwai (瀋陽中衛 sam yeung jung wai: the Shenyang central commandery) during the Ming period.
In 1914, three years after the fall of the Ching Dynasty, it was given the current name (瀋陽), the meaning of which shows that it is on the sunny side of the Shen River (瀋水 sam seui; pouring water).

[Qin Shihuang (秦始皇 cheun chi-wong; 259 – 210 BCE): founder of the Qin Dynasty (秦朝 cheun chiu; 221 - 206 BCE). Notable achievements include unifying China and terrorizing his subjects. He was followed by his son, an incompetent who met his death in 207 BCE. Note that the term Qin (秦) is the dynastic appellation and an ancient toponym, shihuang (始皇) merely means 'first emperor'. His personal name was Zhao Zheng (趙政 Jiu Jing).]


As just one instance of the friability of the area, this is the arena where the Japanese created a pretext in 1931 for the invasion of northeastern China. Shenyang was still referred to as Mukden in the Manchu language at the time. After an explosion near a Japanese railway line at Five Willows Lake (柳條湖 Liǔtiáohú; 'lau tiu wu'), staged by rogue officers, the Imperial Japanese Government blamed Chinese bandits, and massively invaded, defeating the garrison troops of Chang Hsue-liang (張學良 Zhāng​ Xué​liáng​; 'cheung hok leung') stationed at the Northern Great Barracks (北大營 běidàyíng; 'baak daai ying') in a few scant hours. They went on to conquer all of Manchuria, and proclaimed the formation of the "Great Manchurian Empire" (大滿洲帝國 Dà​ Mǎn​zhōu​ Dì​guó​; 'daai mun jau dai kwok') on February eighteen of the following year.

As their "head of state", the Japanese chose Aisin-Gioro Pu-yi (愛新覺羅·溥儀 Àixīnjuéluó·Pǔyí; 'ngoi san gaau lou·pou yi'), formerly known as the Hsuan-t'ung Emperor (宣統皇帝 Xuāntǒng Huángdì; 'suen tung wong dai') whose abdication in 1912 ended the Manchu era and the imperial age.

The entire watershed of the Liao river and its tributaries was always considered a distant and unstable region, and even today is still partly barbaric. Although Chinese have always lived there -- frequently in internal exile or posted on the frontier -- it was a part of the civilized world that was not infrequently subject to rapine by outside tribes; the Di (狄、翟 dik) and Rong (戎 yung) peoples, then the Hsiungnu, Hsianpei, Khitan, Jin, Mongol, Turk, and Manchu.


During the Tang era, the eastern and western Liao commandaries (遼東郡、遼西郡) along the northern frontier were frequently in a state of chaos, as the Khitans, though nominally subjected, were not well subjugated.
Generations of soldiers and officials were dispatched to pacify the region, their absence much lamented by the relatives they left behind.

In the quatrain cited at the beginning of this essay, the poet speaks as if in the voice of one such family member, utilizing the customary first person self-depreciating term 'qie' (妾 jip; your servant, concubine) employed by wives in that day and age. It is a literary conceit, which allows him to obliquely criticize the government. Surely if politicians are competent and just, all under heaven (天下 tin haa; 'podnebesnaya' ) will be at peace?

Perhaps things are seriously flawed at the imperial court; otherwise such circumstances could not arise, and people would not suffer.

Note: Separation of couples when husbands were sent to the border is an extremely common theme in Chinese literature; the territories at the Great Wall (長城 cheung sing; long fortification) were a source of danger for millennia.

Afterthought: The operative word in all of this may be 緖 (seui: mental thread, clue, state of mind). Which is also part of the name of the poet whose quatrain was cited. It is a very useful word, obviously.

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Friday, March 29, 2013


Each place ends up with its own peculiar expressions, which almost form a private language. Sometimes this is just limited to members of a family, or fellow-students of a particular year. Sometimes it's a local flash in the mouth of extremely short duration.
And occasionally there are explosions of linguistic splendour.

The other day I heard something that left me scratching parts in pleased bafflement. A locution that made no sense at all unless one recognized (after considerable pensivitizing, too) the English expression that gave it birth.
And given the context, there could be only one interpretation.


Take the cudgel moustache. Erm, what? Take the cudgel moustache! Naa paang wu, I say! We must 'take the cudgel moustache'.

Okay, if you insist.

Except that the circumstance in which the expression was used indicated quite clearly that what was meant was "knock on wood".

Yeah, there are other Chinese characters that could be used to transcribe the sounds. They would make quite as little sense. All language is at times contextual. With a bit of luck, one's hearers will grasp the meaning fluently, without stumbling over the odd pronunciation, naa paang wu.

A 'dekista' is a taxi, by the way, and 'ekbis' is something that Abu-Fehdi has ever since denied saying. In case you were curious.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013


Some relishes and spicy pickle preparations are universally useful.
A simple tamarind chutney also falls into this category. No, it cannot be employed for Papal blessings or rubbed on arthritic joints with any hope of successfully solving the problem. But it is rather good, it keeps well, and adds a bit of sparkle to any meal.
It is sour, mildly spicy, slightly sweet.


One cup of very thick tamarind water.
One medium yellow onion, minced.
Two TBS chili paste (sambal oelek).
Two TBS slivered fresh ginger.
One TBS brown sugar.
One Tsp. ground coriander.
One Tsp. salt.
A scant amount of oil.

Heat a pan and lightly gild the minced onion in the oil.
Add the ginger and garlic, saute briefly, add coriander powder and chilipaste and stir to incorporate. When the fragrance has increased, add the other ingredients, and simmer until it is considerably thickened. Let it cool, transfer to a jar, and refrigerate till next week.

The visual appeal is greatly enhanced, in the minds of some people, by adding a drop of red or orange food-colouring. I myself am not so sure of that, as it makes it look deceptively like sweet-sour sauce or tomato condiments such as American ketchup, and tjeap kwartir.

Note that sambal oelek is the basic building block of much that is good in the world. With its companion sambal badjak, it should never be absent from your kitchen.
A good source in the United States is Huy Fong, makers of SriRacha. Imported brands are Koningsvogel and Conimex, both based in the Netherlands.
It is also quite easy to make at home. Just pound a bunch of red ripe hot peppers with a little salt. Scoop the resultant paste into an appropriate vessel, then use a squeeze of lime juice to wash the remaining pulpy goodness from the pounder.

Thick tamarind water is made by mashing tamarind pulp with twice the volume of hot water, working it over with your hand as soon as it is cool enough to do so. After thoroughly mooshing it up, let it stand a while, then rub it through a tea strainer to leave seeds and strings of pulp behind.

In Indonesia, tamarind is Asam Djawa: Javanese sour.
Asem is the Indo-Dutch spelling.
In Tamarao it is Buwa Kampal.
Patjeri is a cooked relish.

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Two weeks ago I wrote a blog-essay charmingly appelled "slagging the female of the species", which excited the ire of some of my readers.
In it, I listed several things which are very wrong about women, most particularly those of a reasonably spring-like age. I averred that the majority were shallow superficial opinionated shopping freaks, with ridiculous vampire - gangster - hello kitty fetishes.
No, this is by no means an apology.
It was, more or less, the truth.

Most women are like that.

Some aren't. Those are rather hard to find.

I am not the kind of man who obsessively searches for needles hiding in haystacks. If that needle cannot be found, then burn the entire damned stack down and be done with it.


One of my readers in particular took exception to what I had written anent the search for a possible romantic equal for yours truly. She may have been the person I meant when I said "One of my friends confesses herself distressed at the absence of a romantic element in my life, and has resolved to at some point find me a girlfriend.".
I indicated that doing so might be a waste of her time, given my sour old grumpiness and picky petty cynicism about the concept of ever seeing another woman again.

What, me womanize? Heaven forefend, I don't even like the creatures!
Most of them.

She commented: 'Fine. Fine. I'll stop. Maybe I'll just find you a perky little dachshund instead. Believe me, it will be easier. Unconditional love. You know you want it. And short stubby legs. What could be better?"

Perky little dachshund? That sounds good, as dachshunds are remarkable.
With avidity I sought to reassure her that it was a splendid idea.

"A dachshund between fifteen and thirty five , please, who reads more than just romance or vampire fiction. And somewhere between four foot eleven and five foot five.
Dachshunds are incredibly intelligent creatures!"

Then someone else pointed out that the age range I specified was problematic ("no 15 year old dachshunds -- only legal dogs"), and I agreed for reasons of my own.

"You're right. They probably don't even seriously read until they're in their twenties anyhow. So, correction: a dachs-hund between 21 and 35, who reads at a post college level, within certain key height parameters."

And there you have it. That describes the ideal woman. A sleek and wriggly hunting animal with a nice personality who is curious and intelligent, and reads at a post-college level.
And is short enough that one can kiss her forehead.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I could probably never own a dog. Here in San Francisco the custom is to walk behind the dog with a plastic bag, doing whatever is necessary to keep the neighbors from flinging pooh at you. And this, unfortunately, means that you must not give them any ammunition.

And let's be honest; most San Francisco dogs are remarkably unlikeable creatures. They're small, yippy, and arrogant. That last characteristic is something they copy from their owners.
Though why a person who has a chihuahua or shitzu would have a big ego is beyond me. Sweetheart, you've got an icky little pooh-factory, not a pet. Those creepy parasites have NO personality, and virtually no brain.
They're rather like dinosaurs; grey matter the size of a pea.

Please go walk your horrid mutt down near the La Brea Tarpits. He might find his long lost cousin there.

The argument has been made that chihuahuas are NOT dogs, but actually sewer rats from Venezuela. That seems very farfetched; rats are intelligent.
If you really believe the rodent theory, it's because your much larger canine (possibly a golden retriever or a labrador) put those thoughts into your head. When your own very personable pet looks at that loathsome little vibrating insect, the only thing he can think of is "bite size!"

It's extremely cruel of you that you force Rambo to associate with miniature monsters at the dog park. Do you know how much self-control it takes for a hunting animal to keep from grabbing the nearest chihuahua and shaking it till the head falls off?
Even most smaller dogs, such as dachshunds and terriers, take one look at that brainless runt and seriously consider mayhem, or perhaps playing fetch with it till it's stopped yipping.
Chihuahuas instinctively know that real dogs are their enemies. They can't formulate the thought, being too stupid for anything other than the animal version of 'doh', but they know that all other house pets are more intelligent, and would wish to kill them in the most entertainingly brutal way possible.

That's why they're always nervous and quivering.
Sheer stupid fear. No, it's not just paranoia.
Everyone really is out to get them.

If you have a chihuahua, you should be be damned glad that the local rats don't have nunchucks. Because if they did, your little Foofie would even now be having his knees broken.

This blogger actually likes animals. Not chihuahuas, animals.
Chihuahuas are a life-support system for irritation.
As well as jelly-brained blondes.

Maybe I should get a cat.
They are non-threatening.
And they pooh discretely.

My, that's a cute little doggie! Rambo from next door wants to play with it.
Please don't watch.

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On the bus the other day an African American touched the shoulder of an elderly Cantonese gentleman to alert him to a vacant seat. It was meant innocuously enough, but he could not know that the old man was phobic. After being told loudly, repetitively, and stridently "no touch, okay, you no touch, no touch me, you stay away, you not touch", he shrugged, then muttered "have a nice day" under his breath, and sat in the seat which he had wished to let the other fellow have.
I could sympathize; bit of a quandary on either side.

Touch is, in many ways, the first recourse when speech fails.

We've all felt like giving people who are deeply sad a big hug. In most cases that would be ill-advised. That we may know them does not mean we may touch them. People are to differing depths protective of their personal space, and if there are age, status, and gender issues, that reassuring hug could be your ticket to a minefield.

We like touching others, we want to be touched; and every one of us demands the deciding voice over the when, where, and how of it.
Unless you indicate that it's acceptable, I shall not presume.

On the other hand, the welcoming or parting hug is no major problem for many people, who do this automatically without even considering that it may be a wee bit too close for the other person, especially if he or she comes from a social background that does not act thus. Such behaviour is NOT as standard as many people believe. Do not take for granted that similarities in some areas automatically translate into commonality in all others. Someone else might show physical affection only to their parents or their offspring.

Some people become horribly uncomfortable at the prospect, especially when they realize what is going to happen.


A very similar dynamic often takes place in public. "Why hello, I haven't seen you in such a long time!" Followed by a warm enthusiastic embrace in broad daylight entirely out in the open before complete strangers.
That right there gives many shy people the heebie-jeebies.
It seems so unreserved, so exhibitionist!
Do I really have to?

"There are several reasons for returning raccoons to the wild, though this will be difficult if not done correctly.
Animals which are accustomed to being handled are unlikely to survive on their own... "

I like touch. But mostly as an intellectual concept. Very close friends, fine. Especially if they are my age, and we haven't seen each other in a while. Anyone else is iffy. Unless it's much more private, OR there are tons of familiar witnesses. It's a question of suitable social frameworks.
Casual physical contact on the street is a little queer.
And public displays of affection are right out.
No smooching in front of an audience.
Discreet handholding is fine.
In a suitable context.
Movie theatres.

Or if we're both in front of a firing squad.
Yeah, then it's perfectly okay.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Dear Spam-bots: thank you for no longer attempting to seed the comment field with ugg boots, viagretic adverts, or dating sites in Russian. I truly do appreciate that. Unfortunately, you still visit, and still try to leave a mess.
What on earth makes you think that I or any of my readers is interested in Hermes, Louis Vuitton, or Isabel Marant?

And who the hell is this Christian Louboutin?
Is he someone I should know about?
Brainsurgery for believers?
A religious sect?

If Christian Louboutin is whoring Jesus to the dunce-like masses, that does not concern me, and I don't really care. Anybody who joins his church is probably sick in the head anyway.
Same goes for Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Isabel Marant.

Surely, dear spambots, you realize that several comments at the exact same time on the exact same posts looks shockingly suspect? And that there is no way anbody reading about the Chofetz Chaim, what on earth a Salagubang is, or even checking out my letter box, could EVER be interested in the miserable tacky merchandise you folks are flogging?

A rabbi, a tropic beetle, and a method for contacting me privately.

That last link is mainly for friends and relatives who have lost my e-mail address, OR shy young women who have read a number of my articles and now have this romantic idea in their heads about a handsome mysterious blogger, who might be great fun to meet sometime soon, because he's witty and wise, and stinks alluringly of pipe-tobacco and jasmine tea.
I do not publish whatever is entered there (as IS mentioned), but if there is a real person at the other end, I will respond. Thoughtfully, and sincerely.
It is NOT for mercantile troll-spawn pimping boots and handbags.
Or anyone trying to convince me of Jesus' existence.
And I object to your attempting to do that.

Even as we speak, my hordes of trained zombie weasels are on their way to your basement hide-outs, where they will rip you limb from limb and verily feast upon your tiny pea-sized brains. Before setting fire to the crib and burning all your larvae.

Savage internet attack drones are hunting down all your relatives and doing unspeakable things to them with screwdrivers and other mixed beverages. Briskly efficient Philippina nurses will insert tubes into delicate parts of your diseased bodies and bloat you up. Commissars are going to torment you by shooting all your farm animals. There are voodoo priests who have effigies of you, and intend to abuse them.

Scaly aliens from Arcturus X gonna harvest your organs!

Or not.

Your comments just won't ever get published.
And no one will follow your clickable links.

I'm fairly certain that Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Isabel Marant, and Christian sodding buggery Louboutin are all products made to the lowest possible standards, enormously overpriced, and quite mind-blowingly ugly.
Worse than mediocre garbage, that no one wants.
Garish, vulgar, and compostable.

Comments welcome.

[The less you say about Jordan sneakers, the pocket pussy, and Michael Kors, the better.]

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Monday, March 25, 2013


What better way to begin the week than with a merry dance?
Especially if done by a furry creature?
To the sound of drums.

I think you'll agree that the following tune says it all.



I first encountered this happy aire by the courtesy of someone in New York nearly seven years ago, who has since become older and wiser.
But I fervently hope that even in the wilds of utmost Michigan he still boogaloos like a hairy shape-shifter.

It's party music, is what it is.
Just sets your feet aquiver.

I also do Gangnam style.
Just call me Disco Stu.

Rock, as they say, on.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013


I'm a pretty decent cook, which is something that I'm proud of.  If you've read this blog a while you will realize that food is one of my "things". 
But it wasn't always that way.

I started cooking when my mother was hospitalized, and continued doing so when she was bed-bound. Some of those early dinners were, on the whole, more educational than edible. Despite avidly reading the Larouse Gastronomique, there was less technique than absurdity in my kitchen efforts.

Most of it could be eaten. More so as time went on.

When I came back to the United States I lived with my grandmother in Berkeley, where she had been since she was discharged from the Navy. Her cooking was somewhat, errrrrrmmm, single person in orientation. Perforce I cooked whenever I could. At that time I knew what many foods and ingredients were by sight and by their Dutch or Indonesian names, but had virtually no clue what they were called in English.
Immaterial in any case, as American supermarkets at that time catered strictly to people with no taste and no culinary culture to speak of.
Plain bland blah. Kibble, vitachunks, and mere stuffing.

That was many years ago.

For a long time now I have lived in San Francisco, where food is as diverse as the people who inhabit this city.  If I want, I can find fresh fish, live and outraged, splashing about in tanks a mere eight blocks from my apartment.
As well as crustaceans, shellfish, poultry, and delicious fatty cuts of meat. Plus real vegetables.
I hear that out in the suburbs such things are still impossible.
And I believe it; I've seen what they eat there.
They live sad miserable lives.

These past few years I have hardly cooked at all, due to a lack of anyone to cook for or with. I'm fortunate that I know of several good places to eat, which are not far to walk, and remarkably close to the stores where I used to buy fresh fish and vegetables. Some of those restaurants also do some stellar seafood, as well as superb steamed shellfish, or salt and pepper crabs. One need never be without something delicious in this city.

Unfortunately, a steamed fish is usually too large for just one person.
And it seems rather a bother to take left-overs home.
I have not had steamed fish in a long time.

Yes, I could make it in my own kitchen, with a fish of suitable smallness.
But I just don't feel like cooking for myself much anymore.
It isn't very inspiring, unfortunately.

Some day, when circumstances again call for it, I will prepare a feast.
It will include a nicely steamed fish.
Or two such.

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There is one Chinatown restaurant which you will never see described in any detail here. The food is excellent, as I know from previous experience. But I haven't had it in several years, and I refuse to go there ever again.
Reason being that my ex and her beau eat there often.
It's probably their favourite restaurant.

During the years that she and I were together we never ate in Chinatown. She was afraid that her family would hear that she was going out with a white guy, and given their deeply conservative old-country values, that would have meant an explosion of epic proportions.

Well, she's finally gotten over that. All of her siblings have met her boy friend. And the two of them visit the restaurant that must not be named several times a month.

I guess part of the reason why I've mentioned so many establishments in Chinatown on this blog in the last three years is to assert that despite dining by myself, I do exist. See, here I am.
On the other hand, it's quite unlikely that I'll ever go to any of these places with anyone else.
I just don't know anyone who eats the same food.

Unlike my ex, I am quite unappealing, and it isn't surprising at all that she found someone new in almost no time whereas I have remained single. Women just aren't attracted to men like me, and given that I have facial hair and smoke, I am pretty dang repellent.

[Yes, I know. You probably think I should change; shave off both the college-proff beard and moustache, and stop smoking. But I'm fairly happy with my appearance, and if I had to choose between a woman and my pipes, I would choose the pipes.
A bowlful of tobacco is extremely enjoyable, a regular pleasure which will continue for years to come, and there is no woman in any case. Furthermore, I'm middle-aged, which is something that can only get worse.]

Chinatown has always been a bachelor society. In many ways it still is.
They aren't snooty, and there are things to eat.
The food is scrumptious.

Besides, no one particularly minds me there.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013


Here it is Saturday evening, and you are all alone in the house. Your lively roommates have gone to clubs with their beefy boys and you just know that you will be woken up at three in the morning by their enthusiastic humping, or alternatively, your parents are away, celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary at the fancy hotel on Nob Hill, and they won't be back until late tomorrow. Everywhere in the city people are out on dates, eating dinner together, and getting squiffy in tandem. Not you. You don't have a male friend or companion, and you hate the idea of going out drinking alone.
As well as the oafs who keep hitting on you.
It almost makes you wish for a suitor.
Or a man to squire you around.
Someone completely safe.
And unattached.

Point is, everyone seems to be acting out their fantasies and having a fine time with other people, but you aren't, and you don't really want to link up with someone just because you're desperate. The heck with going out with a man you have no interest in, and even though your crazy roommates have promised ('threatened') to set you up, the idea of a blind date is revolting.
What if he's sweaty and gropey? Or into sports?

May I suggest something completely depraved?

Take a bath. A nice long hot bath, with a glass of champagne and a huge slice of coconut cake. Luxuriate in the warm soapy water, letting it swirl all around you, and twiddle your toes in the suds while you slowly, dreamily, mouth a fork full of coconut cake. Now have a taste of that champagne... Mmmmmm! Delicious! More cake. Another sip. Enjoy the decadence.
Take your time, so that you enjoy every luscious silken mouthful.
What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday evening!

That, and real whipped cream.

After an hour or so get out, dry yourself (smell that wonderful clean scent emanating from your skin), and pad into the living room in your fluffy bathrobe to watch a trashy movie or read a bit. When you feel yourself getting drowsy, go to bed and drift off.

What's that? No cake? No champagne?

Do you at least have a bottle of sherry, and bonbons?


Nice people should have bonbons coming out of their ears!

You could lie in hot water with fragrant bubbles covering every inch, languorously nibbling bonbons, one after another.

Look, just take that bath anyway. You'll feel much better afterwards, and it will be a nice evening. You can finally start reading A Tale of Two Cities, without being bothered. Save the champagne for next weekend.

D & M Liquors at Fillmore and Sacramento has an exceptional selection of champagne, and Lotta's Bakery on Polk just up from Clay does a truly divine coconut cake. Really, it's quite exquisite.
Get yourself some Yardley's soap, and a small flask of champaka or jasmine essence. Just add one or two drops to the hot water. Perfumerie Jacqueline, on Geary between Grant and Stockton, has quite one of the best selections of perfumes, fragrant soaps, and florals. If straight essences aren't available, the owner can nevertheless advise you on other additions.


Even I am out and about on a Saturday evening. There is no champagne in the house, and a bag of jalapeno-flavoured Doritos is not even a halfway civilized substitute for bonbons or coconut cake. Besides, I've already read A Tale of Two Cities, and I need to smoke my pipe for a while. But I'll be thinking about enjoying champagne and a luscious dessert.
While I'm elsewhere and otherwise engaged.
It's such a lovely fantasy!

Bon bons.

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Friday, March 22, 2013


It never used to be like this! In the good old days, you would place your order, wait patiently for a while, appreciate the visual beauty of it when it arrived, then dig in with gusto. All dreamy smiles and warm happy.
Food, that is. In commercial establishments.

Now you insta-snap it.
To share with friends and social networking sites.

Pictures of Asians taking pictures of food:

Yes, that is right! Images of people immortalizing their dinner, themselves caught in the act. It is, more or less, amateur food pornography. Key to the concept of photographing these giddy orgiasts engaged in the process is that the objects of their affection should also be in the shot.

I do not own a digital camera.
I cannot engage in food porn.

Is it okay if I simply describe it instead?

Luscious, deliquescent, charred, toothsome, creamy, resistant, oiled, sparkling, fruity, smooth, gooey, wet, goodness, roseate, peachy, oozing, studded, quivering, drenched, moist, glows, sweaty, warm, fragrant, crisp, tempting, vigorous, trembling, filled, soften, chill, rested, toasty, liquid, gleaming, supine, silken, charming, firm, dreamy, vibrant, zesty .......

I hope that didn't excite you too much.

Is your mouth watering?


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Thursday, March 21, 2013


My dear, I had no idea that your Teddy Bear was so degenerate! Really, hanging around at the abandoned church with the louts, with a pipe sticking out of his jaw. And I'm fairly certain he was smoking an aromatic. Possibly Erinmore Flake, which has a distinct odour of pineapple in the topping. That is NOT a good sign. Pipes and perfumed tobaccos pave the road to ruin, I'm fairly sure of it. Those things are indications of indolence, degeneracy, and a decadent mindset. Most unsuitable for a small domestic ursine! You need to talk to him.
I think he would probably like Erik Stokkebye's 1931 flake as well.
There's a lovely spicy-fruity wuft to it, very old fashioned.

What do you wish to do on a warm and lazy afternoon?

Something that involves the teddy bear, of course.

May I suggest dragging the couch out into the orchard, so that you can have tea there with all the stuffed animals that live in your bedroom -- especially including that sinful bear -- while white white apple blossom petals drift down in the gentle breeze? There you will be, surrounded by fuzzy love, with delicate hints of flowers and fresh grass all around.
Perhaps with a wedge of pie.
À la mode.
The bear, meanwhile, is setting light to a bowl of rubbed blonde leaves with hint of.... I really don't know what that smell is. Maybe it is a fragrance that was popular among lively young ladies before the war. Did someone spritz this discretely between her bosoms before going dancing? Or maybe dab a touch on her wrists and along her collarbone after the bath?
Both maidenly and daring, all at once.

Say, how old IS that bear of yours? He can't possibly have lived through all that, can he? Are those his memories, or has he been reading that salacious novel you hide under your pillow? No, I refuse to even mention what else is sequestered there. It should not be mentioned lightly, just share it with an intimate friend sometime. It isn't anything to feel guilty about, but yes your mother would never understand. She'd misinterpret everything.
The older generation has done too much stuff.
No wonder they have evil thoughts.
Richly depraved lives.

As twilight approaches, a wind picks up, swirling the petals in that orchard of yours. It isn't unpleasant, just far cooler than the hours before. Your skin feels interestingly prickled, and maybe it's time you should go inside.
Between your fuzzy friends and you, the couch gets dragged indoors again, the antimacassars arranged upon the back, and the cushions re-plumped.
Faintly an echo of apple blossom still adheres to the fabric, along with the merest trace of your Teddy Bear's newly discovered flake tobacco.
He smiles dreamily, remembering an afternoon in the warm sunlight; you bury your face in his stomach, and sniff deeply of his warm soft fur.
You are very fond of his fuzzy touch and reassuring presence.
He's a bit of a wise-guy, and rather eccentric.
But never the less a fine ursine.

Outside, clouds of petals swirl and eddy under the trees.
Like snowflakes or ghostly butterflies.
Springtime haunting.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Lunch yesterday was a late affair. Time had flown by without my even noticing it, and I did not leave the house till past tea-time. Which, as you probably know, is four o'clock or shortly thereafter. I decided not to wait for public transit, but wandered up and over the hill on foot.

By the time I got to Stockton Street five horribly crowded buses had passed, filled with unhappy-looking people. Sad and tired individuals heading home on an overcast day. All in all, very good to avoid.
Especially as some of them can smell a smoker from several seats away, my heavens we make them thoroughly nauseous, and really all they want to do at that moment is heave all over our docksiders.... but it would take a major logistical effort to arrange their mouth just so.
Especially in a packed vehicle.

Normally I enjoy the hyper-sensitive.
Their distress is very creative.
Theatrical, entertaining.

But sometimes you need a break from the predictability of it all.


There was only one other customer at the coffee shop on Waverly Place. The usual patrons had probably decided to not risk the chance of rain, but hurry home before it fell. The half-light of a leaden sky and the pale glow from daytime fixtures gave a restive quiet mood to the place, made more so by emptiness. I have always enjoyed it because of the atmosphere, but yesterday it finally struck me that given the extraordinarily low prices and therefore utter simplicity of their pastries ($3.75 for an entire apple pie!), they devote very much skill to making their products. The flakiness of their crust is extraordinary. It's miraculous what they can do with much simpler resources than many more pretentious places.

Lotus seed paste cookie (蓮蓉餅), curry puff (咖喱角), and a hot cup of freshly made milk-tea (奶茶). Half an hour dawdling at the front seat near the window, looking out onto the street. Foot traffic and slow moving cars, mostly foot traffic. All ages, all types, all facial expressions.

It used to be the Wonder Food Bakery, which opened in the seventies. Many people remember it from their childhood as one of the best places to buy snackipoos - real cheap, real good. Some of them even ordered their wedding cakes here.
The Chinese name has remained the same, but in 2008 the new owners changed the English sign to Blossom Bakery. They no longer do cakes of the formerly stellar quality, nor is there the huge variety of pastries that once was offered. It's basically a leaner operation than two decades ago.
But it's still fun to hang out there for people watching, and though it isn't the fanciest bakery in C'town, your time and money are well spent.
It's mostly packed with old folks playing lotto.
Nothing fancy, but a good place.
Very home town.

Yes, you were right. You knew I would finish this piece with a pipe-full of tobacco and a leisurely stroll down past the park. There were still chess-players all over the square despite the looming clouds.
The rain did not come till around seven, when I was indoors again.

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Sometimes people place the most amazing comments underneath my articles. Such as the question "why are Asian girls so messed up?"
It's a good question. Totally berserk, but likely to start a conversation.
Or at the very least, keenly excite the intellectual curiosity of several people, some of whom are dubious in the extreme.


Thank you for asking! I'm incredibly flattered that you consider me an expert on the subject, or at least someone whose deep insight is worth seeking. Despite my only having had one relationship of any duration, with, remarkably, a woman who was of Asian ancestry.
English is her first language, by the way.
She's an American.

Our affair lasted for over two decades. It's over now. Even after enduring for such a long a time, it does not make me an expert. I still know more about pipe tobacco and tea than feminine psychology.

Did you possibly mean "why are American girls so messed up" instead?
If you did, that's a question which I probably couldn't answer either.
Seeing as I've only had one relationship of any duration.
She wasn't any more messed up than normal, btw.
And she knew zilch about pipe tobacco.

I could ask in response: "why are American men so messed up?"

And you would probably consider that question both unusual -- you do not consider yourself messed up in the slightest, whereas the rest of the world thinks otherwise -- as well as remarkably rude.

But why ARE you so messed up?!?

And why are you asking about Asian girls?

From the masculine point of view, most women are quite neurotic anyhow, and we're never likely to understand them, Asian or otherwise. If you want even a half-assed stab at grasping the female of the species, avoid any and all women with whom you don't have anything in common, most especially a language both of you speak with equal fluency. If you don't do this, you'll be asking yourself what the heck is going on and what you did wrong before you even know it. Well before the twenty-year mark in any case.

And she'll be the one demanding "why are American men so messed up" instead.
And you know something? She'll be absolutely right.
You are pretty messed up. Everything which she had good reason to take for granted you were entirely unaware of, what she assumed was obvious went right past you. And things that you left unsaid, she left unheard.

If you do not speak the same language and read the same books (assuming that both or either of you actually read), you will have a hard time establishing a worthwhile relationship.
And if you lack considerable shared social elements in common, there will be far less agreement than either of you would wish.

Asian girls are no more messed up than white girls.
Or Americans, irrespective of gender.
Nor any less either.

Perhaps it's you.


The commenter didn't actually us the term "messed", but rather a verb that began with the sixth letter of the alphabet. Everything else he said indicated that he had certain regrettable preconceptions.

I too have preconceptions, albeit different ones. And I cannot advise anyone about their love life or sexual peccadilloes, as I am not a psychologist, father confessor, or experienced roué.

Not that I regret that; I am normal.
Some people aren't.

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A commenter wrote "this is a topic very near to my heart... thank you! Exactly where are your contact details though?" Now, normally I am an absolute patsy for praise, especially when it involves the word 'heart'. Seriously, if I could touch the hearts of all my readers I would be one very happy blogger. Heartwarming, heartening, or heartfelt. That's me.
There was one minor problem with his submission.
Perhaps I shouldn't even mention it.
But it bothers a bit.

The comment came from a gentlemen advertising himself in his pasted link as a commercial enterprise flogging "coloncleaner info".

A refreshing change from Viagra, Cialis, and wigs for balding men, to be sure. But nevertheless, this blogger wishes very little connexion with other people's colons. Almost none, in fact. Consider it a complete non-interest.
Consequently I saw no reason to approve his comment.
Him and his fine clean colon.

I'm rather disappointed, as I would have hoped that a petite demoiselle with a round head, sparkling eyes, and a lively sense of humour would have visited here instead -- and bear in mind that for all I know she did, and is making college money by selling cleaning products -- but a person posting spam bam thank you ma'am commentary is a distinct let-down.
Besides being a pain somewhere.

Did I ever mention that I only run a clean blog?
It may be crappy, but it requires NO cleansing.

Where are your contact details?

I'm not too particular about the ethnicity or derivation of the round-headed demoiselle, or her hair colour. Black, brown, red head, or buttery blonde, they are all welcome to visit and comment here. The only requirement is being able to write complete and coherent sentences, a vocabulary that indicates knowledge and literacy, and a sense of humour. Your insights relevant to the post under which you append your reaction will be most welcome.
If you wish to communicate details of your age, height, marital status, and general appearance in your remarks, please do so.
But it isn't necessary, and I shall not inquire.
Unless we ever meet, it is immaterial.

However, do NOT leave me notes about your colon.
Doing so is a horrible introduction!
No friendship will ensue.
If you do.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Occasionally discord in China hits the news. Not often, because the party wishes to present an image of harmonious and patriotic obedience to the wise decisions of authority. Such as the rock-bottom lease of prime village agricultural land in a village in Canton Province recently.
[February 26, and ongoing.]

'Yau-yu gun yuen dik taam-fu seung pou chuen chuen-man sou-luen'
[Due to official corruption Shangpu villagers riot.]

The appointed village chief, Li Bao-yu (李寶玉 lei bou-yiuk), of Shangpu Village (上浦村 seung pou chuen) cut a good friend one hell of a deal, signing a contract with an investment holding company for a fifty year transfer of communal fields at far less than market value. Naturally the villagers were outraged, as the decision regarding their common land had been taken without consulting them, and without their consent.

The area thus disposed of would be used to build an electrical wire factory. And despite the likelihood that this would bring massive pollution as well as in no discernible way benefit the village, this too was entirely without their concerns being taken into account.

So when several hundred thugs armed with cleavers and iron bars arrived to enforce the deal, the villagers struck back violently, expelling Li Bao-yu's henchmen and overturning their vehicles. In response authorities higher up the chain of command blockaded all roads into the village and cut-off the flow of irrigation.
It is quite likely that officials in the administrative hierarchy of Mianhu town (棉湖鎮 min wo jan), under whose purvue the village falls, or even higher up the provincial bureaucratic chain, are involved, and in on the deal.
Li Bao-yu counts as a wealthy man; in China's countryside, one does not achieve that status without considerable help from above, as well as keenly remembering the functionaries who assisted along the way.

How ironic that this should have happened just when the top officials in Beijing (北京 paak-keng) discussed the problem of official corruption, especially regarding the frequent dispossession of farmers in illegal land transfers.


Shangpu (上浦 seung pou) is a village to the north of Guangzhou (廣州 gwong jau) with approximately three thousand inhabitants. It is not far from Wukan (烏坎村 wo ham chuen) where a similar problem in 2009 caused massive popular resentment. In 2011 the party sacked the administration of Wukan and allowed secret ballots to elect a new village council.
But the villagers have so far failed to regain their land.

Thugs and gangsters, as organized entities, are commonly called the hak-sei wui (黑社會 "black society organization). In Southern China they form a pandemic pest, but are often very useful for low-level party functionaries who are desperate to get rich and get out.

The term for venal officals is baat fu-jaak dik gon-bou (不負責任的干部 "irresponsible cadres"). This locution is far more common nowadays than in the post-revolutionary past, one of the benefits of modernization.

Official corruption is called gun-yuen taam-fu (官員貪腐), in which taam-fu (貪腐) translates as "covetously rotten". Which is a particularly apt phrase. Officials have historically been a sore burden for the rural population in China, and little appears to have changed.

Illegal land acquisition (非法征地 fei faat jing-dei) has become a recurring flashpoint in the hinterlands, as low-level communist officials see all the marvelous opportunities for personal profit.

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